EDITORIAL: PR is clawing its way to the top

This year’s survey of in-house PR departments (see page 13) reveals a complex picture of life in UK plc. On the one hand, PR budgets appear to have remained largely static, but the scope of public relations activity appears to be on the increase.

This year’s survey of in-house PR departments (see page 13) reveals a

complex picture of life in UK plc. On the one hand, PR budgets appear to

have remained largely static, but the scope of public relations activity

appears to be on the increase.



Organisations are clearly placing greater emphasis on their reputations.

And not before time. Given the dismal record of large corporations like

British Gas, Yorkshire Water, Shell and Cunard over the last 18 months,

it would take an unusually short sighted company not to see which way

the wind is blowing in the world of corporate affairs.



But it seems that at the same time they are becoming much more canny at

how they go about their public relations. ‘More bang for the buck’ is

the motto, and who can blame them? This in turn will bring greater

pressure for proper evaluation of PR activity - a trend which is vital

to the discipline’s future development, and should be welcomed by anyone

who takes public relations seriously.



For the in-house PR person, meanwhile, the holy grail remains board

directorship. This week Chris Hopson has achieved exactly that with his

elevation to the Granada Media Group board. In doing so he joins a very

select band of in house practitioners to reach the top of major plcs.



He deserves it, but unfortunately, as any headhunter will tell you,

there is a dearth of PR practitioners who can genuinely aspire to join

him in the premier league. There is no reason why PR people should not

become main board directors. But such positions are not theirs by right.

Only the best will get there, and that is no bad thing - either for the

reputation of the public relations profession or for the companies

themselves.



However, it is easy to become overly obsessed with this goal. The key

requirement is that public relations should be at least represented at

the highest level, where it can affect business decision making.



So perhaps the most significant finding of the PR Week in-house survey

is that the top PR people in more than half of the organisations

surveyed now have a direct line to senior management. More than half (58

per cent) report either to the chairman or chief executive or to the

managing director.



The really encouraging signal from this year’s survey is that public

relations is becoming integrated into the company culture, to the point

where it is becoming as much a part of strategic business planning as

finance or marketing.



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